Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Dr Sarah Atkinson’s research team investigates whether an iron export mutation in African populations can protect from anaemia, malaria and bacterial infections.

Control of iron metabolism is fundamental to almost all known life. Malaria parasites and other infectious pathogens require iron to grow and multiply, and the human host has evolved to withhold iron from these pathogens using iron-binding and chaperone transport proteins. One such protein is ferroportin, which transports iron from the inside to the outside of a cell. A mutation (Q248H) in ferroportin increases cellular iron export, leading to a 60% decrease in iron within the Q248H cells. The mutation has various outcomes depending on which cells it affects – for example, in red blood cells it might protect from excess toxic iron and haemolytic anaemia, while in enterocytes and macrophages, it might increase iron absorption and recycling.

Since the iron export mutation occurs primarily in populations of African ancestry, it has been hypothesized that the variant has been positively selected due to protection from malaria. However, a recent study conducted by Dr Sarah Atkinson, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Paediatrics and at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kilifi Kenya, shows little evidence to support this claim. The research team used data from 18,320 children from across Africa and 380 pregnant women from The Gambia to determine what are some health impacts of the Q248H mutation. While the iron export mutation may protect from iron deficiency and anaemia, it does not prevent bloodstream bacterial infections. Additionally, there is little evidence that the mutation protects from malaria as it is unlikely to deprive malaria parasites of iron essential for their growth. Finally, Q248H does not appear to be evolutionary selected in African populations due to malaria exposure.

 

The research, published in Science Advances, is available at: https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/9/eaaw0109

Muriuki_aaw0109_image.png

Similar stories

New model for infant leukaemia announced

The breakthrough could lead to development of new treatments for infant Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.

Changes in blood cell production over the human lifetime may hold clues to patterns of disease

A new paper published this week in Cell Reports reveals that changes in the gene expression of blood stem cells occur across the human lifetime; an important step in the understanding and treatment of blood disorders.

Promising discovery for treatment of neuromuscular diseases

Research led by Carlo Rinaldi and Catheryn Lim discovered that a naturally-occurring isoform of an androgen receptor can be used in therapy for spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy, and shows potential for other diseases.

University of Oxford researchers among recipients of Ireland and UK joint research awards for digital humanities in €6.5m boost for interdisciplinary research partnerships

Dr Samantha Vanderslott (Oxford Vaccine Group) and Dr Claas Kirchhelle (University College Dublin) have had their three-year project ‘Typhoid, Cockles, and Terrorism’ about the history of typhoid in Dublin successfully funded.

New book highlights life-saving role vaccines play in prevention of killer diseases

'Brain Fever', a new book by internationally-renowned medical scientist Professor Richard Moxon, describes the decades of research that contribute to the development of vaccines for life-threatening illnesses such as meningitis, and how immunisation has been our greatest public health intervention.

Latest data on immune response to COVID-19 reinforces need for vaccination, says Oxford-led study

A new study led by the University of Oxford has found that previous infection, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic, does not necessarily protect you long-term from COVID-19, particularly against new Variants of Concern.